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The Ancient Baths of Baiae;
Observations and Inferences ( 2 of 3)

by
Julissa Mendez, Darren Peterson & Erna Schas
Ital333, Prof. Barbara Nucci, March 1999

      Also in the same area, we found some stucco decorations and mosaic floors that hint at the opulence of the villa.  The stucco decorations are well preserved and we were able to see that they were not cast impressions but that they were carefully carved by hand.  We learned that they are duplicates of pearl framed medallions, each containing a single figure.  The images portrayed on the medallions include swans in flight and cherubs. 

A Chronology of
Events in Italy

60,000 BC - 1300 AD

1300 AD - 1998 AD

    The tiled mosaic floors we saw were not quite as well preserved as the stucco decoration, however, they are still quite beautiful.  The decorative layout consists of three rows, each with three rectangular panels. Each panel is framed by an braided pattern and the outside border is made up of geometric patterns.  The mosaic has a particularly elaborate composition that is similar to that of the Basilica di Aquileia (which is also found in the archeological park) and it was most likely created in the 2nd century AD. 

     Descending the staircase to a lower level we found ourselves in the area known as the baths of Venus.  The area is characterized by buildings that utilize the natural hot springs.  They are called the baths of Venus, because of the elegant stucco figures, on the vaults of one group of rooms.  This area has two different groups of buildings.  One is made up of a series of rooms, and an early bath, that date to the later part of the Augustan period.  The other buildings, from the Hadrianic period, are made up of a group of thermal baths which are adjacent to the earlier structures.  One of the most spectacular buildings from the Hadrianic period (2nd century AD) is the Temple of Venus. It was once a magnificent domed structure that is approximately 25 meters in diameter.  The dome is no longer intact.  Today, as a result of the construction of the modern street Via Lucullo, it appears to be isolated from the rest of the complex in the port area of the modern town. 

       We noted that the cold rooms in the Baths of Venus area were situated on the north side of the main complex, while the thermally heated areas were towards the south.   The central pool of the frigidarium is still recognizable today.  Some of the buildings in this area date back to the 2nd half of the 1st century BC and are considered to be some of the most ancient structures at Baia. 

      Next, at the center of the complex, we examined the baths of Sosandra.   The area takes its name from a statue, found on the upper peristyle, which is a likeness of Aphrodite Sosandra. (It is presently housed in the archaeological museum, in Naples.) It is a Roman copy of the Greek original that was created in the 5th century BC by the sculptor Calamides.  A large portion of the lower terrace has not been excavated and there is much debate regarding its usage.  A clear subdivision into four terraces can be observed. Each one serves as the substructure of the buildings located on the next level up.  The upper terrace housed the servantís quarters, the second one housed the actual living quarters with a series of rooms along a large peristyle,  the third terrace has a semicircular structure that has been interpreted as a theater, or possible a nymphaeum, finally on the lowest level there is a large rectangular area that may have been a large pool or possibly a garden area. 

     At least two building phases are indicated by the frescoes located in the southwestern corner of the large rectangular room on the lower level.  This is an important example of how two different chronological periods can be determined by the examination of the fragments of artwork that still remain today.  The first are characterized by the "Egyptianizing" style of the mid 1st century AD, while the coarser style of the later frescoes place them in the 2nd century AD. 

 

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